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Scansoriopteryx (Matt Martyniuk)


Scansoriopteryx (Greek for "climbing wing"); pronounced SCAN-sore-ee-OP-ter-ix


Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (130-125 million years ago

Size and Weight:

About one foot long and less than a pound



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; extended claws on each hand


About Scansoriopteryx:

Like the feathered theropod to which it's most closely related--Epidendrosaurus--Scansoriopteryx is believed to have spent most of its life high up in trees, where it poked out grubs from underneath bark with its unusually long middle fingers. However, it's not clear if this early Cretaceous dino-bird was covered with feathers, and it appears to have been incapable of flight. So far, this genus is known only by the fossil of a single juvenile; future discoveries may shed further light on its appearance and behavior.

Recently, a team of researchers made the striking claim that Scansoriopteryx was not a dinosaur after all, but a different kind of tree-dwelling reptile along the lines of much earlier flying lizards like Kuehneosaurus. If true (and the argument is far from conclusive), this may shake up the widely accepted theory that birds descended from ground-dwelling dinosaurs!


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